No progress with low cost credit facilities for farmers – Brendan Smith T.D.

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has expressed his disappointment again with the response by the Minister for Agriculture to the need to introduce low cost credit facilities for farmers facing financial difficulties as promised almost a year ago in Budget 2018.

Deputy Brendan Smith stated that it is critical that such credit facilities are put in place without further delay due to the financial pressures and poor income returns faced by most farming sectors since the early part of 2017. He added that the Minister’s recent reply to his Parliamentary Question indicates a total lack of movement on what was promised by the Government.

For Written Answer on : 07/09/2018 

Question Number(s): 1002 Question Reference(s): 36827/18 

Department: Agriculture, Food and the Marine 

Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D. 

______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine his plans to introduce low cost credit facilities for farmers facing financial difficulties; when the scheme will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

One of my priorities is to improve access to finance for the agri-food sector. I announced in Budget 2018 that my Department is considering the development of potential Brexit response loan schemes for farmers, fishermen and for longer-term capital financing for food businesses. These schemes are developed and delivered in cooperation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and take time to develop and operationalise. Consideration and discussions with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Finance are ongoing on a long-term investment scheme and an announcement in this regard is expected to be made shortly.

While continuing to explore additional funding mechanisms to address gaps in the market, I also liaise with the main banks on access to finance issues relating to the agri-food sector. I have had ongoing engagement with the banks on the cash flow pressures arising from the effects of the weather on grazing and fodder stocks and I welcome that they are following through on their commitment to support the sector. The delivery of last year’s Agriculture Cash Flow Loan Scheme is acting as a catalyst to encourage financial institutions to improve and develop new loan products for the sector.

A recently announced initiative by one of the main banks mirrors the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme in offering a discounted interest rate with extended and flexible repayment terms. The ‘Milk Flex’ loan product developed by the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, with dairy co-op and private banking participation, is another good example of innovation in this regard.

I know that many farmers will be relying heavily on co-op and merchant credit to navigate through the current situation. Therefore, I have also welcomed recent initiatives by co-ops in relation to credit facilities for their suppliers.

 

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Further delays in improving eligibility limits for social housing – Brendan Smith TD

– Govt needs to urgently publish review

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social housing income eligibility ereply 7th Sept 2018

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has criticised the Minister for Housing for further delays in the publication of a review of social housing eligibility.  The Minister and his predecessor Simon Coveney T.D. committed to a review in Dáil replies to Deputy Brendan Smith since 2016 and still the review has still not been published.

Deputy Brendan Smith explained, “There are hundreds of people across Cavan and Monaghan who are on low incomes and are being refused mortgage approval from the banks.  Unfortunately they are also failing to qualify for social housing because their incomes are deemed too high.  In many instances these people are on low incomes and are dependent on the family income supplement from the Department of Social Protection. If the current rates remain, these people will be caught and will never be able to own their own homes.


“Over the past number of years, the eligibility criteria for social housing have become unrealistic.  These need to be urgently examined and I raised the issue with Minister Eoghan Murphy last year.  At that stage he committed to complete a review of the income eligibility limits for social housing supports. Subsequently last July I was told by the Minister that the results of the review would be available for publication later in the summer. I had hoped that a report would have been made available by now, but last week I am informed that the work is now almost complete. We are still waiting and more and more people are failing to qualify for Council homes.


“I believe this review should be published as a matter of urgency and the income limits raised to a realistic level.   Unless action is taken, we are condemning people to the rental market for life and people being deprived of owning their own homes.  This is deeply unfair and must be addressed”.

Minister must deliver new services now to rural post offices to keep them viable – Brendan Smith TD

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180911 PQ Reply Brendan Smith TD Post Offices

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith has said that he believes the Government has no real long term plan for the post office network.

Deputy Brendan Smith was commenting after questioning the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten on his plans to secure the post office network.

Despite the lengthy response from the Minister, I don’t really see any long term plans for the post office network other than a vague commitment to increase the number of financial services and other government services in post offices.

“However, we have heard these vague commitments before. Yet, no detail has ever been given as to which financial services or other government services would be rolled out in our post offices.

“Rural post offices need decisive action from the Government if they are to have a future. Simply closing them down through targeted redundancy packages will leave rural communities more isolated and less viable.

“Postmasters and postmistresses who opted to take the redundancy package were fully and absolutely within their rights, but this should not have been used by An Post and the Government as a cover to close these post offices.

“The contracts to run these post officers should have been advertised to other businesses in the area to ensure that the post office services remained.

“Minister Naughten needs to come forward as soon as possible with a list of the government services he is hoping to make available in our post office network. Everything else is just waffle,” concluded Smith.

 

Investigation into Belturbet bombings must be progressed – Brendan Smith

Belturbet Bombing

Belturbet bombing PQ

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Justice Minister to pursue a full and comprehensive investigation into the Belturbet bombing.

Two teenagers were killed in the atrocity shortly after Christmas on the 28th December 1972.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “It’s over 40 years since this barbaric act of violence was carried out and to this day nobody has ever been brought to justice.  This is extremely difficult for the families of Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley, who were only teenagers at the time.  Eight other people were injured in the attack and they are forced to live with the horrific memories of that day.

“It is deeply saddening that despite an intensive investigation involving the Gardaí, the Defence Forces and the authorities in Northern Ireland, nobody has ever been convicted of these murders.

“I raised the issue with the Minister for Justice again last month and I welcome the fact that he has stated that “the investigation into the bombing and the two murders has not been closed and An Garda Síochána will pursue any new evidence or information that is made available”.

“The fact that no-one has been held to account for this atrocity is yet another blight on our troubled past.  I have strongly urged Minister Flanagan to establish a full and comprehensive investigation into the bombing so that the perpetrators of this horrific attack can be brought to justice.

“I am also strongly urging anyone with any information about the bombing to come forward to the Gardaí or PSNI”, concluded Deputy Smith.

16 week delay in Carer’s Allowance applications completely unacceptable – Brendan Smith

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Carer’s Allowance

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says carers across the two counties are being put under severe pressure as a result of delays in the processing of their applications for Carer’s Allowance payments by the government.

Deputy Smith was commenting after being told by officials that the average waiting time for the processing of these payments now stands at 16 weeks.

“Carers across Cavan and Monaghan are coming under severe financial pressure as a result of these extraordinarily long delays, which are now running at four months.  I’ve been contacted by a number of people who have been left exasperated by the delays in receiving the payment”, said Deputy Brendan Smith.

“Carers go above and beyond to look after their loved ones. It’s simply cruel to force them to wait so long to get their application processed and their payment made.

“Until an application for Carers Allowance is approved, the carer is not entitled to receive the Carer’s Support Grant, formerly the Respite Care Grant, which is used by most full time carers to obtain respite care for the person they are caring for.

“For many, this is the only means by which of getting a break to let them recharge their batteries and these delays in getting their Carer’s application approved are causing them severe anxiety.

“Minister Doherty needs to reassign staff in the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection to the Carer’s Department section to ensure that the average wait drops. It’s totally unfair on carers and the Minister must intervene,” concluded Deputy Smith.

 

PLANNING APPLICATION TO BE LODGED FOR KILLESHANDRA PRIMARY CARE CENTRE – BRENDAN SMITH TD

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Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD, Brendan Smith has been informed by the HSE that it is expected that the preferred provider for a Primary Care Centre in Killeshandra will be in a position to lodge a planning application with Cavan County Council by the end of this month.

Following recent Parliamentary Questions in Dáil Éireann the HSE in their reply to Deputy Brendan Smith stated that a preferred provider has been identified for a new Primary Care Centre in Killeshandra.

Deputy Brendan Smith stated that it is essential that the HSE progress this much-delayed project development in view of the urgent need to provide proper Primary Care facilities for the Killeshandra area.

 

Smith renews appeal for information on the Disappeared

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– Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains still working on three unresolved cases –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith is once again appealing to anyone who has any information related to the three remaining “Disappeared” to come forward and make contact with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, the Gardaí or the PSNI.

Three victims – Joseph Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Robert Nairac – have yet to be found.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “Sixteen people “disappeared” over the course of the three decades of the Troubles in the North.  The remains of thirteen of the victims have been recovered, ten of them through the work of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.  The organisation is continuing to gather information relating to the three victims who still have not been found.

“The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains relies on information from the public and the Commissioners and their staff work tirelessly to reunite the remains of the victims with their families so that they can give them a respectful burial.  There are three families who are still waiting to have the remains of their loved one returned to them – for them the heartbreak continues.

“I am once again appealing to anyone who may have any information relating to the disappearance of Joseph Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Robert Nairac to come forward to either the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, the Gardaí or the PSNI.

“These disappearances mark a dark chapter in our country’s history, and for these three families the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one is heightened by the fact that their remains have still not been returned to them and they have no grave to visit.  Any information, no matter how seemingly insignificant could make all the difference and could reunite these families with the remains of their loved ones”.

Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains